Sub Pop · October 20, 2017
Bognanno, who writes and produces Bully’s material, opts for a pretty sparse instrumental track on Losing, usually with absolutely no more than a single tracked drumline, a main bass or guitar line, and a guitar providing accents at any single point. Even when they’re not there, your brain fills in a lot of the lines that flow in and out of the mix. The really delicious parts of songs are reserved for vocal lines – the climaxes of her songs can feature three or more of Bognanno in harmony. It’s a fantastic utilization and, very often, allows for a separation of registers that is accentuated by all of the fantastic crunchiness of the vocal lines. Throw in her constantly fluctuating vocal tone, which is somehow equally soft and gritty, and you have a formula to build a solid album upon.
There’s no denying the lyrical and vocal mastery on this album, every song contains a soul crushing amount of self-realization, from singular lines like “I try and be respectful, it kills to be resistant” and “trying to cut down on booze and you,” to song structure emphasizing meaning, as demonstrated on ‘Feel the Same.’ There’s a quality to this album that feels a bit like yelling into the void – the vocal tracks have a snarl that’s in direct contrast to the steady pulse of the instrumentals. It gives the album a consistent sonic theme and driving force, propelled mostly by Bognanno’s vocals. Sometimes this means stagnation but ‘Guess There’ is the only track this songwriting technique falls exceptionally flat on.
This album is not designed for our comfort though; it’s a message pounded into us during the outro, asking, “Can we just exist without your hate and control?” While it’s not exactly clear who the accusation turned dare is meant for, I will happily choose to join Bognanno in her manic rage over the alternative.